December 10, 2019

Washington Nationals exersize option on Span; decline LaRoche and Soriano

According to multiple sources, the Washington Nationals exercised their $9 million team option on Denard Span on Thursday, ensuring the team’s leadoff hitter and Gold Glove caliber center fielder will remain on the roster for at least the next year.

Span, who will be 31 on opening day, hit .302/.355/.416 last season, leading the Nats in hits and setting team marks for hits and multi-hit games. He was 31-for-38 in stolen base attempts and hit five home runs to boot.

Bringing Span back reduced the Nats decisions on potential free agents down to five (ages on opening day).

Adam LaRoche (35, .259/.362/.455, 26/92): LaRoche had a mutual option for ’15 of $15 million with a $2 million buyout, but declined the option. With Ryan Zimmerman’s limitations in the field, it would be very surprising if the Nats re-upped with LaRoche.

Rafael Soriano (35, 4-1, 32 svs, 3.19/1.129): The veteran reliever looked like the Nats’ All-Star rep at the break, but was atrocious in the second half before going lights-out in the playoffs in a very limited role. Team option for $14 million was declined and considering the way things ended, very unlikely he re-signs in DC.

Asdrubal Cabrera (29, .229/.312/.389, 5/21 in 49 games for Nats): Cabrera became free agent at conclusion of World Series. Was excellent defensively and had a couple of offensive highlights, but his age and already diminished results suggest Nats will let him walk.

Scott Hairston (34, .208/.253/.299, 1/8): Hairston has outlived his usefulness as a Major League Player. That might sound harsh, but it happens to everyone. Was once known as a “lefty-killer” (even if it wasn’t entirely true, but his .293 OBP against lefties this season seal his fate.

Nate Schierholtz (31, .195/.243/.309, 1/4): The “other” Nate, Schierholtz was a waiver wire pickup midseason when Nate McLouth went down for the season to injury. Schierholtz was even worse than McLouth at the plate overall, though did chip in in the playoffs. With another $5 regrettably due McLouth, Schierholtz rides off into the sunset.

Washington Nationals Game 1 Pregame: Manager Matt Williams meets the press

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams met with gathered media ahead of Game 1 of the NLDS Friday morning. The skipper talked about the roster construction for the first round, Ryan Zimmerman’s availability and his bullpen.

Earlier in the day, the Nats announced their playoff roster. Zimmerman was indeed included, which meant someone had to be left off. The odd man out was outfielder Scott Hairston, who was on the roster all season long. Nate Schierholtz, a left-handed hitting outfielder with some speed who was a waiver claim late in the season, retained his spot.

Williams conceded that Zimmerman would come off the bench as a right-handed pinch-hitter, a move most assumed as his playing time down the stretch was managed heavily by the Nats first-year manager. Zimmerman obviously has not fully recovered yet from the torn hamstring that cost him over 50 games this season.

Zimmerman played only sparingly in the field upon being activated from the disabled list, and when he did was shaky, at best. Since the Face of the Franchise will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the most part, that meant Hairston, who’s also primarily a right-handed pinch-hitter, became superfluous.

That situation played out in the bullpen as well. Ross Detwiler, who started the pivotal Game 4 in the 2012 NLDS, was left off the roster as well, in favor of Rafael Soriano, the demoted closer. Williams referred to Detwiler as the “third lefty” and said he preferred to carry just two: Matt Thornton and Jerry Blevins. Blevins was much maligned early in the season — though not nearly as much as Soriano was late — but the veteran recovered in the last month of the season to dominate down the stretch.

Soriano took the opposite tack. The veteran righty was dominant in the first half of the season and really could have represented the Nats in the All-Star game. But as good as he was early, he was that bad in the second half, running up a 6.23 ERA since the midsummer classic. His inclusion on the roster is curious, but Williams said he likes the luxury of having three 40-saves relievers in his bullpen, saying that his confidence in Soriano “never waivered.”

The last nugget of information to come out of the press conference was that Tanner Roark, who started 31 games with a 15-10 record, 2.85 ERA and 1.092 WHIP, was moving to the bullpen with the shortened playoff starting rotation. Though Williams didn’t mention him by name, Gio Gonzalez thus retains his spot in the rotation, unless the Nats decide to come back with Strasburg in Game 4 on one day short rest — a situation that would probably only arise if the Nats trailed in the series.

The Nats Game 2 starter, Jordan Zimmermann, also spoke with the media Friday. He said most of the players in the clubhouse are trying to go about their business as normal, but acknowledged that the playoffs brings a different edge and it helps the team went through it two years ago.

“We didn’t really know anything coming in two years ago,” Zimmermann said. “Jayson [Werth] is the only guy who said ‘It will be crazy, something you guys never experienced.’ You know, after going out there [in 2012], and experience it one time, I think we are all more prepared now and kind of know what to expect.”

Washington Nationals Game 122 Review: Nats Top Pirates Again in Walkoff Fashion

For the second straight game, the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in a walkoff scenario, this time in 11 innings by the score of 6-5 at Nationals Park Sunday evening.

Pinch-hitter Scott Hairston came up with the game-winning sacrifice fly that plated Jayson Werth, who reached base on a smoker double off the left-field wall.

Washington starter Doug Firster was solid through seven innings pitched, allowing just two unearned runs on five hits and a walk. Unearned runs proved a menace to both teams’ starters as Pittsburgh’s Edinson Volquez allowed four runs – only one of which were earned – on six hits and two walks through 6.1 innings pitched.

In the top of the sixth, Gregory Polanco reached on a fielding error by Ian Desmond to start things off before Josh Harrison singled to right.

Neil Walker then grounded into an otherwise easy fielder’s choice, but on the play, Anthony Rendon committed a throwing error which allowed Harrison to take third as Polanco came home.

Russell Martin then singled to plate Harrison to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

The Nationals earned one back in the bottom of the inning, however, after Rendon singled and Adam LaRoche drew a walk, allowing Desmond to bat in Rendon with a single of his own.

In the seventh, the Nats looked positioned to run away with the lead.

Michael Taylor took first with one out on a hit-by-pitch, before Kevin Frandsen and Denard Span hit back-to-back singles. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 54 Review: Nats Find Their Swing in 10-2 Rout of Texas Rangers

Powered by four homers at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon, the Washington Nationals continued their recent offensive outburst in a 10-2 rout of the visiting Texas Rangers.

On Friday night, the Nationals put up nine runs on 15 hits, including a towering Ian Desmond homer, to defeat the Rangers in the first game of the three-game set. A team that was once searching for offense certainly seems to have found something if Saturday’s slugfest is any indication. [Read more…]

Nats Pregame: Fister, Hairston nearing rehab start

WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals start a four-game series with the San Diego Padres at 7:05 Thursday, with Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 3.92) hosting LHP Eric Stults (1-2, 4.35).

Before the game, Nats manager Matt Williams updated the media on the status of two injured players nearing rehab stints.

Starting pitcher Doug Fister threw a bullpen session earlier in the day, throwing 40 pitches for the Nats pitching staff and reported feeling good during and after the session. He’s now scheduled to throw four innings and up to 60 pitches on Sunday, with the most logical destination being Potomac.

“I think it’s going to be at Potomac,” Williams said. “He felt good in the bullpen today, so he’s good to go for his next one and that one is four [innings] and 60-ish [pitches]. Depending on how he gets through it. The pitch count is one thing, but four ups and working into a real game situation is more important, but four and 60, roughly.”

Williams indicated Fister wasn’t thrilled with his location, but the skipper is more concerned with his pitcher getting through the sessions with nothing more than normal pitching soreness.

“I talked to him today about it,” Williams explained. “He said, ‘My location wasn’t exactly where I want it to be, but I felt good about it.’ So, that’s all I care about really. Is how he feels, because I know that the location will be there as he builds and as he gets stronger and he works into the fourth, sixth, seventh inning, it will be there. So I’m not concerned about stuff-wise right now, I just want to make sure that he feels good about it. And so far, so good. He feels good. Ready for his next one.”

Will the ‘next one’ be in the major leagues? “It depends on how he feels,” Williams responded. “But, generally, if he can get through this next one and get to five [innings] and 75-ish [pitches] then you would say he’s good to go for a major league start. It depends on how he feels though. So we’ll keep that in mind as we go. It’s still unclear. Got to get him through this next one.”

Williams then explained that outfielder Scott Hairston is about ready to take a rehab assignment as well. Hairston will take early batting practice with the team on Friday, then live BP on Saturday, along with his rehab work. If all goes according to plan, Hairston could begin a rehab assignment as early as Sunday or Monday. He’ll probably need four or five games (roughly 20 plate appearances) before being ready to be activated.

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview, Part II: The Outfield

Jayson Werth high-fives Bryce Harper after gunning out Greg Dobbs in the ninth inning. - Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 9/7/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Health and self-preservation are key for the Nats outfield this season. (Stock photo Sept. 2012, Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.

Josie’s on a vacation far away…

THE OUTFIELD

Jayson Werth, RF: Werth was a stealth candidate for MVP last season, and actually ended up 13th on the postseason award ballot. The .318/.398/.532 line he posted at age 34 had everything to do with that. Werth enjoyed one of his finest seasons in the bigs, despite missing 33 games due to injury, which has to be expected from the guy at this point in his career. There’s no way he’ll every live up to the immense contract he signed to come to D.C., but when he’s been in the lineup the past two seasons he’s outdone what could have reasonably been expected of him. How long does that production continue? His defense is already slipping greatly and he has four more seasons to his contract, so it becomes an important question as Werth enters the twilight of his solid career.

Denard Span, CF: Trivia: He’s the only player in Major League history by the name of Denard. Or Span. Anyway, Span rescued his season with a torrid seven weeks at the end of the season, which was along the lines of what GM Mike Rizzo expected when he traded pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for him. Span bottomed out on Aug. 16 at .258/.310/.353, nowhere near what’s necessary in the top spot in the batting order. For the next 39 games, he hit .338/.375/.459, instrumental in the Nats late resurgence. It was too little, too late to save the Nats playoff aspirations, but the Nats have to get more near his career line (.283/.351/.387) on a more consistent basis to make this offense work.

Bryce Harper, LF: Bam Bam put up a .274/.368/.486 line his sophomore season at the age of 20. That’s at once hard to comprehend and easy to overlook. He’s doing remarkable things at such an early age. Unfortunately, he’s his own worst enemy right now with his “balls to the wall” approach at defense. At some point, self-preservation has to take hold. No manager or coach wants to tell Harper to slow down, but he needs to stay on the field – and healthy – to fulfill his promise. After crashing into the wall at Dodgers Stadium in May, he played all season on a knee that required surgery at the conclusion of the season, under the radar while many weren’t paying attention to baseball. He needs to figure out lefties (.214/.327/.321/ in 158 PAs) and breaking balls, but the talent is there. He just needs to stay on the field.

Nate McLouth, OF: Last season was the first time since 2009 McLouth played more than 90 games at the Major League level. His resurgence for the Orioles is nothing short of astounding, considering the trajectory his career was taking. In ’10 and ’11 with Atlanta he hit .190 and .228 with 10 homers combined. His first 34 games with Pittsburgh in ’12 were no better: .140/.210/.175, leading to his release. He rediscovered himself in Baltimore, hitting .26/.342/.435 and .258/.329/.399 the past two years. Now 32, McLouth will see plenty of at bats with the injury-prone Nats outfield and as a late inning pinch-hitter. By default, he becomes the leader of the Goon Squad.

Scott Hairston, Corner OF: Hairston is the right-handed hitting Ying to McLouth’s Yang. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work on paper. But Hairston’s overall numbers last year (.191/.237/.414) and age (34) – not to mention his paltry .214/.259/.484 against LHPs, who he’s supposed to “mash” – signal the end is rapidly approaching the once versatile and useful player. It’s true, all 10 of Hairston’s homers last season came against lefties, but as his slash line indicates, it was literally all or nothing for Hairston. 10 of his 27 hits in 140 plate appearances against LHPs were home runs. Against righties? .097/.147/.276. Can this actually be the Nats primary right-handed bat off the bench? With a walk rate of 5 percent and contact rate of 72 percent, this a guy whose skills aren’t declining, they’ve just about evaporated.

Jeff Kobernus, Corner OF: Kobernus made his MLB debut last year at the age of 25, past prospect status. His tryout lasted 36 PAs and resulted in a .167/.306/.267 slash as he played all three outfield positions. Small sample caveats abound, as the converted second baseman held his own in Syracuse, hitting .318/.366/.388, all minor league career highs. You like to see a player whose numbers rise as he goes up the ladder. He’s had 40+ steals each of the past three seasons in the minors and folks love his work ethic. But there’s not a lot of room in the bigs for a right-handed hitting speedster without obvious elite skills and no pop, especially in the outfield.

Eury Perez, CF: Did you see the last sentence I wrote about Kobernus? It applies even more toward Perez. His stolen base numbers have plummeted as he’s risen through the ranks, from 64 to 51 to 23. He’s always made good contact, as his lifetime .305 average will attest to. But there’s no power, less willingness to walk, and he’s only an average defender despite his speed – though he has a decent arm. Perez is destined for pinch runner/Quad-A status.

Steven Souza, Corner OF: Souza was a third round pick in 2007 out of high school, so he’s been in the system for-e-ver, toiling first in anonymity, then infamously due to his PED suspension in 2010. But Souza has blossomed a little bit the past two seasons and put himself back on the radar of the big club. He has an interesting pop/speed combo (15 homers, 20 SBs in 323 PAs for Harrisburg in ’13) with good plate discipline (.396 OBP) and had a nice appearance in the Arizona Fall League in October. The 25-year-old could have a chance to impact the big roster yet.

Brian Goodwin, CF: Goodwin is the heir apparent to the center field position at Nats Park. The 34th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, Goodwin has an impressive arsenal of tools. He possess elite plate discipline, something that might actually hurt his counting numbers in the minor leagues, as he simply won’t expand his strike zone for inferior pitchers. When he does swing, he has a nice blend of pop to go along with squaring up on the ball. Goodwin is a fine defender in center, though his arm isn’t the greatest, and he’s still learning to use his speed on the bases (just 19 of 30 last season). He struggled at the start of last season in Double-A, but picked up as the season went on. There’s plenty of time for the 23-year old as Span plays in his walk year this season (barring Nats picking up Span’s $9M option for ’15).

Michael Taylor, OF: Scouts have been drooling over Taylor’s athleticism since being drafted in the sixth round of the ’09 draft. Unfortunately for Taylor, he’s never really been able to translate all that athletic ability into production on the baseball field. He’s still young (23 in March), so he’s got time to “put it together”, but in over 1600 minor league at bats, Taylor owns a .249/.319/.399 slash. He repeated High-A last season and tore it up on the base paths (51 of 60 on steals) and his slash went up a little bit across the board. Double-A this year will tell the story of whether he’s a baseball player or athlete.

Washington Nationals Game 126 Review: Hairston’s three-run homer helps salvage Nats’ win over Cubs

In nine innings of baseball Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals seemed to summarize the highs and lows of the entire 2013 season thus far in an 11-6 win over the Chicago Cubs that nearly didn’t happen.

Washington cruised into the fifth inning with a five-run lead over a team that could muster only a solo home run by Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the first until that point.

In the top of the second, Washington had quickly erased Rizzo’s solo shot. Kurt Suzuki batted in Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche with a sharper grounder that deflected off Rizzo’s hand at first. Then, starter Ross Ohlendorf added an RBI sacrifice bunt to make it 3-1 Nationals by the end of the second.

In the third, Jayson Werth, who continues to ride an astonishing hot streak, contributed a three-run shot to put Washington on top 6-1. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 111 Review: Nats drop first game in critical series against the Braves

The Washington Nationals fell 3-2 to the Atlanta Braves Monday night in the first game of a must-win series against the NL East leaders.

With the loss, the Nats are now a crippling 13.5 games back with just 51 games remaining – and eight contests against Atlanta.

Things started out on the right track for Stephen Strasburg (ND, 5-9) who struck out Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann in order after Jason Heyward on a fielding error by first baseman Adam LaRoche.

In the bottom of the first, Ian Desmond walked and Wilson Ramos drew a two out single, allowing LaRoche to double home Desmond. On the play, Ramos attempted to come home to give the Nats a second run, but Heyward fired in to Andrelton Simmons, who tossed to McCann in time to nab Ramos. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals can’t hit lefties: The Numbers

The Washington Nationals are getting a lot of ink lately regarding their struggles against left-handed pitching. It’s on the front burner since the first three games of the four-game set with the Phillies, with two losses so far, are against lefties. Monday, the Nats were completely dominated by former teammate John Lannan. Tuesday, it was Cole Hamels that held the Nats hitless for five innings until scratching a few hits out in the eighth.

Wednesday, they face the stiffest competition of all, Cliff Lee, who is 10-2 this season so far with a 2.73 ERA and limiting left-handed batters to a .268/.318/.341 slash line.

What looked like a grand opportunity after sweeping the Padres over the weekend and getting to four games behind the Braves now looks like an impending disaster, as the Braves have won both their games this week to be back to six games ahead of the Nats, and it’s all due to their ineffectiveness against left-handed pitching.

The Nationals are an N.L. worst against lefties, with a team slash line of .215/.281/.336. For a reference point, that’s not much better than Livan Hernandez’ career hitting line of .221/.231/.295. Reminder: Livan was a big, slow pitcher. And they’re doing that as a team.

GM Mike Rizzo went on the radio Wednesday and tried to explain his team’s utter failure to hit lefties. “We just haven’t done it,” Rizzo concluded. “We haven’t gotten it done. And against left-handed pitching, it’s your right-handed part of your lineup that’s got to get it done.”

But is that the case? Are the Nats RHBs really not getting it done? A quick glance at the numbers doesn’t support Mr. Rizzo’s assessment, despite particularly bad at bats by Ryan Zimmerman (0-for-4 with 2 Ks vs. Hamels) and Jayson Werth Tuesday with the bases loaded in the eighth inning.

This first table we’ll look at the Nats RHBs with the largest sample sizes, and the guys Rizzo counts on to drive in runs. We’ll examine their overall 2013 slash line and compare their 2013 vs. LHPs against their career numbers vs. LHPs.

PLAYER SAMPLE AVERAGE ON-BASE SLUGGING
ZIMMERMAN 2013-TOTAL .279 .358 .464
  2013-LHP .291 .404 .494
  CAREER LHP .316 .400 .506
 
WERTH 2013-TOTAL .288 .353 .451
  2013-LHP .273 .344 .542
  CAREER-LHP .287 .387 .527
 
DESMOND 2013-TOTAL .278 .322 .493
  2013-LHP .272 .318 .469
  CAREER-LHP .274 .321 .457

Upon inspection, I don’t see any of these three players suffering any statistically meaningful drop-off from their career norms against left-handed pitching. Werth’s OBP has dipped about 40 points, but his slugging is better. But even then, not much change.

Now, let’s examine the Nats left-handed batters against southpaws this season, using the same data.

PLAYER SAMPLE AVERAGE ON-BASE SLUGGING
SPAN 2013-TOTAL .264 .319 .359
  2013-LHP .154 .222 .176
  CAREER-LHP .278 .358 .373
 
HARPER 2013-TOTAL .276 .380 .541
  2013-LHP .196 .313 .333
  CAREER-LHP .240 .300 .415
 
LAROCHE 2013-TOTAL .256 .340 .440
  2013-LHP .193 .253 .337
  CAREER-LHP .246 .301 .437

Across the board, the three left-handed batters that, to this point, have stayed in the lineup when facing a LHP are all hitting significantly worse than their career averages against lefties. Span’s on-base is over 100 points lower than his career norm, his slugging almost 200 points. It’s no wonder Rizzo went out and traded for Scott Hairston to give Span the day off against lefties in the future.

Hairston’s career .269/.318/.499 isn’t all that much to write home about, but he does deliver some pop against left-handed pitchers and is a capable defensive outfielder, opposed to Tyler Moore or Steve Lombardozzi, the Nats other options for a right-handed bat in the outfield.

Harper’s sample size, obviously, is the smallest, but might be the most troubling. He’s 50 points down in average and almost 100 points in slugging. At least his OBP is hovering around the same, so he’s being a bit more selective, drawing more walks against LHPs but making less contact and weaker contact.

There’s nothing that can be done about LaRoche. His on-base is 50 points lower and slugging 100 points lower that career norms. The Nats have to hope he rebounds as the summer chugs along. There is no viable replacement for him, unless they sacrifice a relief pitcher to bring Chris Marrero back up and institute a platoon.

What’s the bottom line? With all due respect, I disagree with Rizzo’s assessment that it’s the Nats right-handed bats that are letting the Nats down against left-handed pitching. The players the Nats count on are all performing according to their career morns.

It’s the left-handed bats that are killing the Nats, more than normal: their prized off-season trade acquisition “everyday” center fielder, the aging first baseman who signed a two-year deal, and the phenom 20-year old. They seem to have accepted Span’s shortcomings in the Hairston acquisition, but Harper and LaRoche are on their own to figure things out.

Washington Nationals Game 90 Review: Nats fall 4-2 to lefty Hamels

The Washington Nationals’ struggles against left-handed pitching was on display again, as Cole Hamels became the latest southpaw to dominate the team, despite manager Davey Johnson subbing recently obtained Scott Hairston in for left-handed hitting Denard Span at the top of the lineup.

Hamels allowed just a solo home run in eight innings to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-2 win over the Nats, taking the first two games of the four-game set. The Nats record falls to 46-44, 5 1/2 games behind Atlanta, pending their late result.

Hairston led off the game with a clean single (and was erased on a double play), but the Nats were unable to muster any attack against Hamels (W, 4-11. 4.17) the rest of the way.

The Nats did dent the scoreboard first in the second inning, when Jayson Werth yanked a 1-1 outside fastball over the left-center field fence for his ninth home run of the season. That was the Nats second hit of the game and they would not get another one until the seventh inning.

The Phillies got to Taylor Jordan in the fourth. With two outs, Chase Utley doubled to center. On Domonic Brown’s single, Utley came around to score on a close play at the plate, except Kurt Suzuki couldn’t handle the catch. Brown went to second on the throw, and advanced to third when Suzuki threw the ball away and into center field. Brown was stranded as Jordan struck out Michael Young to end the frame.

Jordan (L, 0-2, 3.45) found more trouble in the sixth. Ben Revere led off with a single to center, and Jimmy Rollins followed with a single to right field. Utley grounded to Adam LaRoche at first, but LaRoche’s throw went in-and-out of shortstop Ian Desmond’s glove and into left field. Revere scored and Rollins went to third on the play. After Brown popped out for the first out, Michael Young doubled to the warning track in center, plating both Rollins and Utley, ending Jordan’s night.

Jordan, in his third big league start, gave up four runs — three earned — on eight hits and a walk, striking out two. He threw 61 of his 89 pitches for strikes, and generated eight ground ball outs against three fly outs.

The Nats finally got to Hamels in the eighth inning, loading the bases on an infield single by Hairston, a wall-scraping single by Desmond that Hairston had to hold on, and a walk by Harper. But contentious at bats by Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth ended up as outs and the Nats rally fizzled.

Washington did score in the ninth, courtesy of an Anthony Rendon walk against reliever Antonio Bastardo and double by Wilson Ramos, but it was too little, too late.

THE GOOD: Scott Hairston. 2-for-4 in his first Nats appearance. He did what he was brought here to do.

THE BAD: Ryan Zimmerman. 0-for-4, 2 Ks, 3 LOB.

THE UGLY: Nats vs. left-handed pitching. They made contact on Hamels (only 4 Ks) but it was nothing but ground balls and weak fly balls. Even the rally in the eighth was keyed on an infield single and a walk.

THE STATS: 7 hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. 0-for-6 with RISP, 8 LOB. E: Suzuki (5, throw), LaRoche (6, throw); 3 DPs.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7:05 against the Phillies. Gio Gonzalez (6-3, 3.14) faces Cliff Lee (10-2, 2.73).

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